Two leading prelates of the Church of England have taken part in a mass gathering of traditionalist Anglicans at a time when the church remains split over women priests and bishops.The Forward in Faith movement, which organized the "Christ Our Future" gathering, opposes the ordination of women as priests and bishops, although the Church of England has had women priests since 1994. So far there have been no official moves to ordain women to the episcopate in the Church of England, although a few other provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion have women bishops.The traditionalist gathering was one of several high-profile church events in Britain over the past few days, many of which were linked to the feast of Pentecost and to celebration of the Christian millennium.At solemn Eucharist at the Christ Our Future celebration, the Archbishop of York, David Hope, the Church of England's second highest-ranking prelate, was the principal celebrant. The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who ranks third, preached the sermon. The event, at the London Arena on June 10, attracted a near-capacity congregation of 10,000, including 36 bishops, many from abroad, and 700 clergy.Forward in Faith described the event as "the country's largest gathering of traditionalist Anglicans for very many years" and "an affirmation of the orthodox tradition in the life of the Church of England."Chartres, whom commentators have often tipped as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke against the "great preoccupation" of making worship more accessible. "People, we are told, are put off by anything that is difficult to grasp at first hearing," Bishop Chartres said, adding that this was a rather "condescending" view of "the capacities of the person in the street to understand." He also urged the congregation to "be impatient for unity among Christians. Do not retreat into a sectarian mentality."The chairman of Forward in Faith, Bishop John Broadhurst, told ENI that the mass gathering was conceived for worship, not as a political demonstration. But he agreed that the two prelates would have been aware of the signals conveyed by their presence."It was a great leap of faith to hold this service," he said, referring to the size of the London Arena. "This shows we are not a tiny group. We are not going away."Geoffrey Kirk, Forward in Faith national secretary, told ENI that the attendance of the two prelates was "a fairly unequivocal statement by both." He said traditionalist "Anglican Catholics" had often been seen by the wider church as a cause for embarrassment."We are still embarrassing, but we are a force to be recognized," he added.Meanwhile, on Pentecost, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, took part in major church services in three locations: London, Canterbury, and Gateshead. He traveled the 300 miles from Canterbury to Gateshead in a plane made available by a Christian businessman who chose to remain anonymous. At the Millennium Dome in London, Carey joined the three other co-presidents of Churches Together in England (CTE), including the recently appointed Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, to initiate a day of celebrations during which churches throughout England took part in ecumenical events, many of them out of doors or in big secular venues.CTE general secretary Bill Snelson said: "The millennium celebrations over Christmas and the New Year brought the churches together with a fresh enthusiasm. These Pentecost celebrations are a launchpad for even greater co-operation."At the Millennium Dome, a new massive exhibition space on the south bank of the River Thames at Greenwich, London, Archbishop Murphy-O'Connor spoke of three domes: those of St Peter's Basilica in Rome and St Paul's Cathedral in London as well as the one they were in. "More than ever, we Christians need to have confidence to speak openly about what we believe and why it is Good News," he said. "In our age we must be visible witnesses of God's presence, just as those wonderful domes of St Peter's and St Paul's—and indeed our local churches—have been for generations."Archbishop Carey told a congregation at Canterbury Cathedral about the "Pentecost experience" of an encounter with God, which "challenges, disturbs and leaves one shaken, inspired and never the same again."It was, he added, "far from unusual. It is the experience which lies behind sacred sites like Rocamadour [southern France], Canterbury Cathedral and many, many places where the power of God has descended and where lives continue to be changed."In Gateshead, where he preached at a community of churches festival, Archbishop Carey told the congregation: "God is the God of the impossible, life itself is a miracle and each day we are given is a miracle, a gift of creation. Pentecost, therefore, challenges us to think the impossible and to learn the outrageous."He added: "We know that convention, stubbornness of thought, unbelief and dull habit can keep the Spirit of God at bay."Copyright © ENI. Used with permission.

Related Elsewhere

The Forward in Faith Web site offers photos of the Christ Our Future rally in London and more information about the movement. There are also Forward in Faith organizations in the U.S., Scotland, and Wales.